Exactly how far would you go for cast-iron pecs or the perfect six-pack?
Indeed, gay men have been stereotypically cast as gym bunnies by popular culture for some time, but a new British poll has now revealed a slightly more disturbing fact about that population's fractured relationship with body image. A study commissioned by the Central YMCA, the Succeed Foundation and the University of the West of England’s (UWE) Centre for Appearance Research in Bristol found that 48 percent of gay male respondents would sacrifice a year or more of their lives in exchange for a perfect body. Perhaps even more onerous: researchers also found that 10 percent of those men would agree to die more than 11 years earlier if they could have their ideal body right now, according to Pink News.
Not surprisingly, authorities attributed the results to popular depictions of gay men in media. "Today gay men are under enormous pressure about their bodies, and we believe that a lack of body diversity in the media, including the gay press, and a relentless focus which values people based on appearance, may in part explain why gay men are particularly susceptible to this issue," Rosi Prescott, CEO of Central YMCA, told Pink News. "This is of concern when we know that record numbers of men are taking steroids or having unnecessary cosmetic surgery to achieve what is often an unattainable or unrealistic body image ideal."
A total of 384 men, a quarter of which identified as gay, were reportedly surveyed as part of the poll, with an average age of 40, according to the BBC. But overall, researchers say the increase in body hang-ups surged among both gay and straight men. As The Telegraph notes, the survey found a staggering 80 percent of men regularly discuss body shapes, often comparing them to those of top celebrities and fashion models -- and 59 percent of them admitted that doing so makes them feel worse about themselves.
Among the most popular phrases by men discussing how other men look: "beer belly," "man boobs" (or "moobs"), and "chubby," along with "six-pack" and "ripped."
"Girls want to be slim and males want to be big and lean, and while it isn't a bad thing for people to want to look better, it has become more like a competition, which has a bad effect on most people's mental health," one respondent told The Guardian.
"Body talk is saying things which reinforce the traditional standard of male attractiveness, which is having a tall, lean, muscular body with clear skin and a full head of hair, and is for most people unattainable," Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs of UWE also told The Guardian. "This research really demonstrates that body image is an issue for everyone, although in men, especially middle-aged men, it has been woefully under-reported, but has a negative impact on social relationships and on attitudes to diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle."